Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk. With Claire Fox, Anne McElvoy, Melanie Phillips and Matthew Taylor.
Going to a music festival has become a rite of passage for the post GCSE teenager. Their excitement at the prospect of a long weekend of unsupervised possibility is perhaps only matched by the anxiety of their parents who know exactly what that might entail. Those fears may have been heightened by the news that a music festival in Cambridgeshire has just become the first UK event of its kind to offer people the chance to have their illegal drugs tested to establish the purity of content before they take them. The testing facility, at the Secret Garden Party, was offered with the co-operation of the police. The organisers said the aim was to reduce harm from drug taking and promote welfare. The group conducting the forensic tests this weekend hope other festivals will follow suit. Is this a pragmatic and realistic approach to drug taking that will save lives or a tacit endorsement that will cost them? Is it part of a gradual slide toward decriminalisation of drug taking? According to the 2016 European Drug Report, ecstasy has surged in popularity in Britain among those aged 15-34 in the past three years. Is it logical on the one hand to criminalise the sale of legal highs, but on the other to make it easier to take an illegal drug like ecstasy? Needle exchanges have long been available to registered intravenous drug addicts. Is this a logical extension or does discovering people have illegal drugs and then allowing them to walk away and use them, while the police turn a blind eye, cross a moral Rubicon? It will make it safer for people who want to take drugs, but what about those people who want to attend a festival knowing it is drug free? How should we balance those competing moral goods? Witnesses are Dr Ian Oliver, Johann Hari, Steve Rolles and Deirdre Boyd.